Forget the boxy, gas-guzzling Ford Interceptor or Crown Vic. When Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes needs to head into the community he drives an unmarked, fully electric 2021 Model 3 Tesla outfitted with undercover light bars and a siren.
“The Tesla is a great vehicle for the chief. It can go zero to 60 in five seconds, it’s four-wheel drive, handles great, and it’s a very safe vehicle,” says Madison Fleet Superintendent Mahanth Joishy. “I wanted the chief to drive a Tesla to show the public our commitment to converting every medium- and light-duty vehicle to electric by 2030.”
The cost of the police Teslas is $47,290 plus a few thousand dollars to add communication and other equipment. Joishy says Teslas may seem fancy — he describes them as “sexy” — but the upfront costs are comparable to what the city was paying for gas-powered vehicles.
“A lot of people think of Teslas as a luxury car. I don’t see it that way because you consider the cost of maintenance and fuel over time, it’s cheaper than any gas-powered vehicle. The price points for electric vehicles continue to go down,” says Joishy. “We are buying Chevy Bolts and other electric vehicles for other city departments. But Teslas are one of just two electric cars that are rated for police.”
The other “police-rated” electric vehicle is the new Mustang Mach-E crossover SUV.
“We just bought 12 of those Mustangs for the Madison Police Department and two more for Streets and Parks,” says Joishy. “Teslas and Mustangs are going to be how we get rid of the squad cars that idle all day and spew pollution into the air.”
Police spokesperson Stephanie Fryer says city vehicle assignments are decided by Fleet Services. Barnes didn’t request use of a Tesla but “he has no complaints” about the ride.
“The chief had no issues or complaints with the Chevy Impala he was using prior to the Tesla. He appreciates all Fleet Services does to keep our patrol vehicles working and in good shape,” says Fryer.
In total, 80 electric vehicles have been added to the city’s fleet in recent years with more on the way. The city owned no electric vehicles in 2018. What comes to mind when thinking about a police black and white is about to change, says Joishy.
“The Chevy Suburbans and Impalas, Crown Vics, Dodge Chargers — what the police have typically driven — are all terrible vehicles that get awful gas mileage and require a lot of maintenance,” says Joishy. “I’ve made it my policy to never buy another one of those crappy, gas-sucking cars ever again.”